For leaders to survive and thrive, they’re going to need to increase their capacity to pause, and find the space between stimulus and response.

In the 1970s, the author Tim Gallwey coined the concept of the ‘Inner Game’ which is essentially about unlearning the personal and cultural habits that interfere with our ability to learn and perform.

Gallwey primarily wrote this book with sport in mind as a way of helping people perform more effectively at sport, even if they lack technical experience or input (in my case skiing!) The equation is: your potential minus interferences, equals your performance. The job of the inner game coach, therefore, is to reduce interferences; to help you focus, in an intense but relaxed way. At The Alexander Partnership we’ve worked with this for the past 30 years. This is what you need to know about achieving a relaxed focus.

1. Remember that mindfulness matters, how to get from Self 1 to Self 2

Gallwey was a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji and was influenced by his experience of meditation. From this comes the idea of ‘Self 1’ and ‘Self 2’. The former is full of mental mind chatter and home of your inner critic and the latter is a very still, quiet place. An inner game coach’s purpose is to move you from Self 1 to Self 2.

Self 2 has many advantages. You are present and live in the moment. You’re not attached or distracted by thoughts such as ‘I can’t ski’ or ‘I’ll break my leg’ or ‘I’ll hurt myself.’ You are focused in a relaxed way .

For many of us, being busy, continually stimulated and the the deluge of data can hide Self 2. This is why many leaders are now embracing mindfulness – as it increases awareness stilling the mind and moves you closer to Self 2.

2. Choice and freedom

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Jewish psychologist and Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl observed that in Auschwitz, those prisoners who shared the very small amount of food they had survived longer and didn’t suffer as much.

Frankl said that choice and freedom lies between stimulus and response, in the space between the two. If you aren’t being present, you won’t see that space. Freedom and choice comes from being able to inhibit your response and increase awareness of that space. Practicing mindfulness/meditation can help you see the space more clearly. Let’s go back to the equation: your potential minus interferences, equals your performance. Your potential flows from a still, relaxed focus and having a non judgemental awareness.

3. Go beyond Newton and ‘Experience Blindfold’

Classical Newtonian logic can be held responsible for why many of us live as Self 1. We are much more likely to be attached to our thinking and feeling, and fall back on what Edward de Bono described as our ‘Rivers of Thinking’. This refers to our tendency to get stuck and repeat the same thought patterns and behavior to the point where it becomes difficult for us to step out of this ‘river’ and into another ‘thought-stream’.

At Alexander we also call this the ‘Experience Blindfold.’ It limits our curiosity. To understand, see and access the Quantum world that we are now living in, it is critical to become more present and curious.

Einstein said that the intellect is a faithful servant and intuition, a sacred gift. But society has developed and we’re now slaves to the intellect. That needs to be shifted and changed.

For leaders to survive and thrive, they’re going to need to increase their capacity to pause, and find the space between stimulus and response. Some are describing this as Agile Leadership. A totally different set of rules apply in a Quantum world and to lead successfully will require greater presence and agility.